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Agile-Scrum Principles as Life Skills

Using Scrum techniques in everyday life

21 September 2015

Yashasree Barve
Tata Consultancy Services

By adopting Agile values and principles, Scrum has given us a powerful way to work in the software development world. It has enriched the work life of many of us by maximizing the value delivered to our customers. I always found Agile/Scrum to be a natural way of working. I feel that quite a few of the concepts can be applied to our personal lives as well. In this article, I focus on a few aspects that can help us immensely.

Parkinson's law states, "Work expands to fill time available for it." This is so true for all of us -- dare I say especially for us ladies. Typically we have approximately the same amount of work at home to be wrapped up, be it cooking, packing the lunch box, getting kids ready for school, and so on. But it takes us different amounts of time to finish these tasks on different days, thanks to the time we give each task. Work, such as cleaning up rooms or tidying up things, seems never ending. To me, those tasks look like time-eating monsters that are never satisfied, no matter how much time we feed them.

The same is true for the many tasks in our work environment, such as creating a PowerPoint deck for a presentation, authoring a whitepaper or newsletter, or writing an important email. They, too, seem never ending. There always appears to be a better way of doing these things. Then there are also emails and meetings that eat up time, and many other distractions at work.

Scrum uses some powerful tools to deal with this issue:


Put a timebox around your tasks. Timeboxing allocates a maximum time to complete a particular task. Identify clear-cut items you could do toward completing that task, assign a maximum time, and only pick up highest-priority backlog items that can be done within that time. It's amazing to see results of this technique at the office as well as at home. I have even tried this with my kids. They seem to love it, especially when we timebox the study time (but they hate it when their mobile gaming or TV time is timeboxed).

Deliver value

Nothing stops us from changing the priority of things at regular intervals. Scrum proposes reprioritizing items at regular intervals so that what we do next is of value to our stakeholders. The same is true in our personal lives: Our priorities keep changing. We should question the value we are getting or delivering by what we do. The more we acknowledge this and push low-value stuff out of our backlog (or outsource, for that matter), the happier we are.

Just good enough

Scrum talks about identifying the "just good enough" level of documentation and adhering to it, rather than going overboard. While documenting many critical things is necessary from a future-proofing and sustaining perspective, keeping it alive is a challenge. The documentation is an enabler, but the real value is in the working software. It's worthwhile to identify the "just good enough" levels in many places in life, especially in the time-eater tasks that I mentioned above. Rather than striving for perfection or gold-plating our tasks, it's rewarding to divert that time saved to more value-adding activities, such as quality time with family, "me time," and so on.

Many of us agilists definitely agree that Agile/Scrum is common sense. Principles and techniques such as timeboxing focus on value delivery, and understanding what's just good enough would surely make us happier in our lives as well. From a better way of software development to a better way of living!

Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.

Article Rating

Current rating: 4.5 (6 ratings)


Prerna Kale, CSM,CSPO, 9/22/2015 2:50:16 AM
Very interesting read, can resonate with your agile application to life
Madhavi Ledalla, CSP,CSM,CSPO,REP, 9/23/2015 8:50:07 AM
Good read!
Sachin Khairnar, CSM, 9/24/2015 5:51:39 AM
So true
Arunkumar Ayyavoo, CSM,CSPO, 10/3/2015 6:07:50 AM
Very good article...

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